Rayalaseema in a state of discontent

A sense of alienation pervades Rayalaseema region following the non-fulfilment of promises made in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.

Updated - October 11, 2015 01:32 am IST

Published - October 11, 2015 12:12 am IST

The neglect of the irrigation sector could be a tipping point for fuelling yet another Statehood movement. A farmer in Kurnool district. Photo. S.Subramanyam

The neglect of the irrigation sector could be a tipping point for fuelling yet another Statehood movement. A farmer in Kurnool district. Photo. S.Subramanyam

Close to a year-and-a-half after the bifurcation of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, the Rayalaseema region, comprising four districts — Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapur and Chittoor — finds itself at a crossroads.

Simmering discontent is visible among the political class as well as the general people as they feel alienated from the developmental activities in the new State which started its journey with a deficit in its finances and without a capital of its own. One of the prime factors behind the disenchantment of the people is said to be the priority given to the Krishna and Godavari delta regions in the process of development — be it in the setting up of the new capital or the push given for accelerated development of infrastructure and industry — ignoring areas like Anantapur, a perennially drought-prone district with all mandals declared as drought hit for the fifth year in succession.

Promises on the setting up of institutions of national repute were made at the time of bifurcation and some of them were incorporated into the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act. Except for the Chief Minister’s home turf, Chittoor, which managed to get work started on some institutions, like the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), a majority of them have remained on paper.

The region has not seen a single major institute except for a central university coming up at Anantapur. There were hopes of Kurnool being converted into an industrial hub, but all that the district got was an IIT while Kadapa, which hoped of housing the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and a High Court bench has got none till date. Other institutions — like a petroleum university, a tribal university and industrial corridors including those that will house the prestigious petrochemical industry —ended up in the coastal districts.

Coupled with this is the emphasis on the construction of the new capital — planned as a world-class economic hub — and the government’s failure to give a sense of ownership to the Rayalaseema region on the new capital. Not a day passes without the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu speaking about Amaravati, the new capital, and his priorities in shifting the administration to the area between Vijayawada and Guntur cities.

There is a high level of discontent among people as there has been a total neglect of Rayalaseema. Several projects have remained non-starters, particularly the irrigation projects.

  • — Chinta Mohan, Ex-MP

The talk of a metro rail project and an outer ring road covering the capital region and the announcements about the development planned along the coastline has only accentuated the angst among the people in Rayalseema. Discontent is already brewing among the people of Kurnool, the capital of the first linguistically-reorganised State in the country. 

This has furthered the estrangement in the region, where there is a strong opposition to locating the proposed world-class capital in the already developed delta region rather than the backward Rayalaseema. Leave alone the Opposition parties, the Deputy-Chief Minister, K.E. Krishnamurthy, himself fired a salvo at the Chief Minister for giving “preferential treatment” to the prosperous coastal region. There have been voices of dissent from party MPs like J.C. Diwakar Reddy over the lack  of interest in taking up works relating to Rayalaseema.

Then, there is the dispute related to irrigation projects. The government has prioritised the Pattiseema project that caters to the needs of the Krishna delta, allotting close to Rs. 1,500 crore for its expeditious completion. The same is not the case with the projects like Galeru Nagari and Handri-Neeva that are in the advanced stages of implementation and close to completion.

Notwithstanding the claims of the ruling dispensation on efforts to complete the projects catering to the Rayalaseema region, the government’s move to shift one of the pumps from the Handri-Neeva project to the Pattiseema project to ensure pumping of water by the scheduled date has only added insult to injury. And, there are also suspicions about the government’s intent on providing irrigation facilities to the region, given that the orders issued on the Pattiseema project did not make a mention of the diversion of water from the Srisailam project to the Rayalaseema region.

The neglect of the irrigation sector for long could be a tipping point for fuelling yet another movement for a separate Statehood for Rayalaseema region, analysts feel. There are already voices of dissent heard in the form of parties like Rayalaseema Rashtra Samithi and the Rayalaseema Adhyayana Samiti over the continued neglect of the region which has been witnessing unemployment, migration and drought. “How is the government planning to settle the issues with the neighbouring Telangana State when its Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has taken a stand that Andhra Pradesh has no right on the assured water from Srisailam project” questions Bhuman Subramanyam Reddy, founder of the Rayalaseema Adhyayana Samiti.

Senior Congress leader and former MP Chinta Mohan asserted that the movement for a separate Rayalaseema would not come as a surprise as there is an absolute lack of political will to address issues relating to unemployment, irrigation, infrastructure, mass migrations and much more. “There is a high level of discontent among people as there has been a total neglect of Rayalaseema. Several projects have remained non-starters, particularly the irrigation projects, forcing people to purchase water. The expenditure used for Pattiseema project can complete the long pending Handri-Neeva and Galeru Nagari projects, offering some respite to the people,” he said.

None among the host of projects announced for the region has materialised for long. The Dugarajapatnam port in Nellore district, falling under the Tirupati parliamentary constituency, has the potential of generating employment as well as contributing to the economic development of the region, but has been put on the back-burner despite the central government’s nod.

The government-owned cancer hospital sanctioned for Tirupati has been shifted to Vijayawada and the plan for developing an international cricket stadium has been shelved after the foundation stones were laid for both. 

People of the region feel discriminated in the higher education sector as well and there is every reason for them to feel so. The faculty of the Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences (SVIMS) of Tirupati express their anguish at the raw deal meted out to the region, at least in the allocation of seats to the super-specialty courses.

While the medical colleges based in Hyderabad, Guntur and Visakhapatnam have followed local and non-local norms to suit their conditions, admission into advanced medical courses of SVIMS is “State-wide”, meaning no special treatment for students of the four districts. “Such being the case, where is the question of justice to Rayalaseema?” a senior professor laments.

The ire is not targeted at the Chief Minister or the ruling party alone as the people are equally concerned that the Opposition leader, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, does not make mention of the problems afflicting the locals though he himself hails from the region. Mr. Reddy and Mr. Naidu have both drawn criticism that their efforts are focused largely on improving the prospects in the next elections three-and-a-half years away and not serving the immediate needs of the people.

“Jagan does not probably want to highlight the Rayalaseema issues due to a  fear of being branded as a leader from the region. He cannot afford to lose his  base in the coastal Andhra which commands the majority of seats in the 175-member Assembly,” an analyst pointed out.

The issues, analysts feel, provide ample scope for movement for a separate State in the Rayalaseema region. This is even more likely if the politicians fail to firm up their resolve for ensuring the fulfilment of promises made in the Reorganisation Act, rather than merely waxing eloquent on the ‘special category status’ that is being seen as a panacea for all ills plaguing the region.

The forgotten region

People in Rayalaseema feel their region has suffered neglect while an already-prosperous coastal Andhra has been given preferential treatment.

Key areas of neglect

  • Irrigation: the government has prioritised the Pattiseema project, ahead of those like the Galeru Nagari and the Handri-Neeva.
  • Port: The Dugarajapatnam port in Nellore district has been put on the back-burner .
  • Capital: The government has failed to give a sense of ownership to the Rayalaseema region on the planned world-class capital, Amaravati.
  • Institutes: The region has  not seen a single major institute except for a central university at Anantapur. Promises of an AIIMS branch and a High Court bench have not been kept.

(With inputs from V. Rakesh Reddy in Anantapur; M.V. Subrahmanyam (Kurnool), K. Umashankar (Chittoor) and B. Venkat Sandeep (Tirupati).)

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